Return Jonathan Meigs 4th
Return Jonathan Meigs, 4th (#372) was born on April 3, 1812, the first son of Timothy Meigs (#197) and Elizabeth (Holt). Timothy Meigs is the son of Col. Return Jonathan Meigs (#90) and brother of Gov. Return Jonathan Meigs (#191).
Meigs married Jane (Jennie) Ross, oldest daughter of Chief John Ross of the Cherokee Nation, at Cleveland, Tennessee, in 1838. Meigs emigrated with the Cherokee nation to Oklahoma shortly there after.
Frontier life was often very eventful as demonstrated from the life of Meigs. On Saturday night, November 1, 1845, a party of outlaws and ruffians, intent on robbing Neigs, came to his house. They "approached the house of Mr. Meigs, who was alone excepting some Negroes, his wife and children having [gone visiting] in the afternoon of the sane day. They went to the door, remarking he is here,1 and demanding admission. Thinking it was [Daniel] Colston's voice he inquired if it were he, when some other noise was given... he threw open the window shutter, through which the muzzles of five guns were thrust & pointed at him. He immediately jumped behind the facing of the particular door, when they insisted on coming in promising not to hurt him. He told them he would let them in if they would set their guns inside which they refused. Sometime was spent in parly [sic], perhaps, ten minutes, during which Mr. Meigs had succeeded in getting his double barrel shot gun and tho [sic] empty threatened to shoot if they attempted to take his life. He finally consented to open the door and approached a back one through which he escaped in a most astonishing manner as he had not taken more than three steps with all hurry from the door, when a gun, or pistol was fired at him.. hitting only eight or ten paces off. As the night was dark, they did not pursue him, but entered the house, searched and fired it, while this was going on Mr. M. was not more than sixty yards off where he remained till they left and till he saw the flames bursting out through the roof; and then came to this place [Park Hill, Cherokee Nation] afoot, wading the river and threading his way in the dark. His house and everything, except two or three trifling articles were consumed. Throughout the affair, he seems to have displayed a remarkable presence of mind."(1)
Meigs was a partner with Chief Ross in a mercantile business located at Park Hill. But in 1849, having caught the California gold rush fever, he sold his share of this business to Ross. He left for California with a large group lead by Clement V. McNair on April 20, 1850. They left from a point near present Still-well, Adair County, Oklahoma. The company finally comprised 117 whites and Cherokees and 15 Negro servants.(2) On the morning of his departure, during the family prayer, Meigs read the 37th Psalm, his favorite scripture.(3) He then departed to strike it rich along with so many other Americans. The following extract is from the diary of John Lowery Brown, a young Cherokee, who was also in the party.
May 5th Traveled 15 miles and caught up with the company commanded by Clem McNair. a war party of Osages came into camp, causing great excitement (Camp 7)
May 9 The Company was joined on Thursday by, five wagons and 21 men, which [corner Journal worn] said the number grew [corner Journal worn] to 105 men, 15 Negroes and 12 females all under the command of Clem McNair--
May 13 Lay By
May 14 Traveled about 15 miles crossed two creeks and camped at night on Shoavs's [sic] Creek camp 13th--
May 15 Traveled all day without any timber in sight 20 miles and without any water until night [corner Journal worn] Camped at Evans old camp ground used Buffalo Chips for wood) this is the place that Capt. Evans called Buffalo Chip Camp Camp 14--
June 21 finished crossing at 2 o'clock left the Platt and traveled 6 miles to Creek Good water grass & timber Camp 44-- (note in margin: we called this Ralston Creek because a man of that name found gold here) (4)
June 22 Lay Bye. Gold found.
June 23 this morning all except 3 messes who traveled on concluded to stay and examine the Gold. Bell, Dobkins & R.J. Meigs traveled on
July 10 Traveled 25 miles today without finding water until night, when we camped on a Branch of Elk head creek. Very Bad Road. Grass scarce & water not good. Camp 59--
July 11th Today we had very good Road for a few miles and then the rest of the way, the worst Road that we have Traveled over since we left home. No water or Grass or Timber. The Road Dry & Dusty & parched. No game, Sage Grass scarce. at Sundown we reached the dry Bed of a large Creek where we got water by digging holes. the water tasted of Salaratas [sic] & salt. Grass scarce. Made today 20 miles-- Camp 60--
July 20 Today Capt. Home's Co Rafted their wagons across the River. R.J. Meigs drowned one of his mules(5)
August 5 Traveled today 35 miles to good water and grass. found a great many emigrants here resting their horses & cattle, before entering the desert, also cutting grass to carry to feed their stock with Camp 78-- (note in margin: Elbow Spring)
August 6 Lay Bye. Resting stock today about 2 o'clock Mr. R.J. Meigs was taken sick with the colern [sic], and about 9 o'clock same evening he died--
August 7 this morning we Buried Meigs, Runaway Tuff & Russell, the two last having died this morning. we moved two miles back among the hills and Lay Bye. Meigs' wagon & other effects were taken charge of by Mr. John Clark, which was the request of the [Deceased] Camp 79(6)
While at Elbow Springs, the party spent time cutting grass to feed their stock in the desert. Meigs complained of not feeling well, but still helped with the work. He was among the first work group to go out. After cutting his share of grass, he raked it up and carried it into camp. By that time, he was very ill and lay down on the heap of grass to rest. Within a few minutes he had died, saying that all was well with himself and asking John Clark to look after his effects.(7) Elbow Springs is about sixty miles west of Salt Lake City, Utah.
Andrew Ross Nave married Meigs' widow, Jennie, but he was killed in 1863 by Confederate raiders.
Copyright (c) by Rick Meigs